Teacher of band in Howard charged with sexual abuse Woman from Texas files complaint about 1981

January 22, 1991|By Michael J. Clark | Michael J. Clark,Howard County Bureau of The Sun

A Howard County band teacher who was acquitted two years ago of charges that he fondled a student was charged yesterday with child abuse after a Texas woman filed a complaint alleging that she was sexually abused by the teacher when she was in high school.

The charge was filed against Donald Barry Cohen, 45, of Columbia, the band teacher at Glenwood Middle School. He appeared before a District Court commissioner and was released on personal recognizance until his trial.

A Howard County jury acquitted Mr. Cohen, who has taught band for more than 20 years, of one count of child abuse and a sex offense in March 29, 1988.

The state dismissed a second count the following month.

During the trial, a 13-year-old student testified that Mr. Cohen touched her sexually on two separate occasions at Wilde Lake Middle School. Mr. Cohen denied the allegations from the witness stand.

Jonathan Scott Smith, Mr. Cohen's lawyer, said his client called the new charge "crazy" and would plead innocent. The complaint was filed by a 27-year-old Denton, Texas, woman who attended Wilde Lake High School when Mr. Cohen taught band there.

"This is stretching it, to say the least," Mr. Smith said. "This is a 10-year period of time. Where has she been for 10 years? It seems a waste of resources when the police already have their hands full. It also is a case which is clearly vindictive on the part of the woman. The police are aware she has an ax to grind."

Detective Sandra Regler said in a statement of charges that the woman who filed the complaint, a former Ellicott City resident, was undergoing therapy "to help her deal with sexual abuse [and] she made the decision to return to the county to pursue charges."

The woman told police that while she was attending Centennial High School she took private music lessons from Mr. Cohen as well as playing in the school band, according to a police statement filed in District Court.

The woman said that she routinely visited Mr. Cohen at his apartment, that he would telephone her daily and that she began develop a "crush" on the tall, thickset, bearded teacher.

The woman told police that she sought to stop meeting with Mr. Cohen outside of band activities but that the teacher confronted her and said he wanted to "start a relationship," court papers said.

In March 1981, when she was 17, the woman alleged, she visited Mr. Cohen's apartment, where she was given alcoholic drinks and was touched sexually.

The woman told police that the relationship ended after a May 1981 incident in which she had sexual intercourse with the teacher.

After that encounter, the court papers said, the woman was "upset and refused to see the defendant again. [She] left for college that summer and had no further contact" with Mr. Cohen.

Before moving to Glenwood Middle School, Mr. Cohen had been a band teacher at Wilde Lake Middle School, Centennial High School and schools in Prince George's County.

Howard County school officials could not be reached for comment yesterday because of the holiday in honor of the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr.. In the past, teachers facing criminal charges have been placed on administrative duties until their cases are heard.

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